October 30, 2019
By Malcolm Johnstone
West Chester PA – The Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) received an award in the form of a $150,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Partners in Preservation” program. The funds will match a grant of $80,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The grants will be used to replace their failing roof which threatens the priceless collections housed at CCHS due to leaks. An additional grant of $10,000 was also provided to increase public awareness of CCHS and build grassroots support for our Main Street district. The total value of the campaign is $240,000.
To reflect the need for roof and chimney repairs, the campaign was given the title Under One Roof.
The National Trust, in partnership with Main Street America, American Express, and National Geographic will provide a total of $2-million in grant funds to qualifying institutions across the US in 2019.
CCHS was one of twenty projects to be selected, and it is the only project located in Pennsylvania.
Between September 24 and October 29, community supporters were asked to vote online for their local historic structure connected to women’s history. More than 1.1-million votes were cast. West Chester received more than 85,000 votes and ended the campaign in fourth position out of twenty.
Another component of the campaign was an open house requirement where supporters cast in-person paper ballots for an additional $50,000 to the site with the most attendees.
“We are thrilled that so many people came out to show their support for us,” said Allison Snavely, Director of Development at CCHS. “More than 700 visitors came to our open house event, which provided another level of voting support. We are grateful to be a part of a community that cares and stands united Under One Roof.”
Each site must have a connection to an overall theme selected by the Trust. In 2019, the theme was “Celebrate Women’s History” whereby sites rich in women’s history were selected. Further, sites that were part of a local Main Street program were given priority.
“The West Chester BID is a program that’s accredited by the National Main Street Center,” says Sandy Riper, president of the West Chester BID Board of Directors. “The BID partnered with CCHS to apply for the grant and participate in the voting campaign that the Trust called ‘Vote Your Main Street’.”
The connection to women’s history is found in the first women’s rights convention held in 1852 at Horticultural Hall, now part of CCHS. A historical interpretive sign, erected by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, signifies its importance. Ellen Endslow, Director of Collections/Curator, along with Elizabeth Laurent, former CCHS president, completed the paperwork to demonstrate the connection for submission to the Trust.
“West Chester has a long history as a place where people fought for equal rights and civil rights for everyone,” said West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin. “To get national support for CCHS, the institution that is the caretaker of our history, is a great recognition.”
The campaign lasted 36 days. Supporters were allowed to vote every day, up to five times.
“It took a coordinated marketing strategy developed by staff and volunteers of CCHS and the BID,” said Beverly Sheppard. “We were out-voted by only three other communities, and they each had support of national organizations such as the Girl Scouts and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). That we did better than places like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver, is a testament to the hard work of our volunteers and the faith of our community.”
Others that helped in the campaign include Elle Steinman and Malcolm Johnstone, West Chester BID; Alaina McNaughton, Education Director, Anne Skillman, Volunteer President, CCHS; Will Swan, Chester County Conference & Visitor’s Bureau; Keith Kurowski and Allison Humphries, West Chester Parks & Recreation Department; Erik Weber, Josh Pellegrini, and Frank Herron, Saloon 151.
“With such an outpouring of support, I think it’s safe to say we are continuing to make history,” commented Mayor Herrin.
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See the article by the National Trust for Historic Preservation